This justifiably famous 1964 concert by Miles Davis' quintet at the Lincoln Center has been released in many incarnations. Originally it appeared as two single LPs, one consisting of the ballads of the evening, the other including all of the burners; it has also been released as part of last year's seven-CD set Seven Steps
, and as a double-CD set that restored the concert to the order of its original program.
I have always preferred to separation into "hot" and "cool," as it keeps each recording in a consistent mood. This one, the ballads, is chock-full of cherished moments. Miles' opening solo on "My Funny Valentine" essentially recast his role as the darling of the hip elite, and it's easy to hear why. With sensitivity and delicacy, he draws you in by his whisper of a tone, making the piece all the more lyrical and pleading. Ditto for "I Thought About You," which has the trumpeter sounding reflective and lonely one moment, obtrusive the next.
As a transitional figure in this band, George Coleman gives the performance of his life, with robust solos full of gently swinging, yet slightly abstract ideas on the toe-tapping "All of You" and the mid-tempo "All Blues." With the rhythm section of soon-to-be superstars Ron Carter (bass), Herbie Hancock (piano), and 19-year-old Tony Williams (drums), Coleman is pushed, pulled, and tugged through each song. As with so many of Davis' bands, this incarnation was not to last very long. Miles was looking for something else, and he would find it in Coleman's replacement, Wayne Shorter. But that should not be cause to dismiss the importance of this band or this recording.
Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; George Coleman: tenor sax; Herbie Hancock: piano; Ron Carter:
bass; Tony Williams: drums.